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Another year and many more challenges

Posted by Gerry Morrissey on 21 April 2011

Gerry speaks to members at the London Production division conference in October 2008Speaking to members in London Production at a recent divisional conference.

Apologies to readers of my already irregular blog. I have been a little ‘caught up’ since my last posting after conference 2010.  Doesn’t time fly!

The BBC pensions dispute was a major commitment of course (I am already on record as saying those negotiations were the most difficult, of a great number, over several years) and we continue to keep in our sights the needs of members affected by the changes.

Broadcasting

The coalition government’s cuts agenda has affected BECTU’s membership substantially, whether we are talking about the World Service, local authority and Arts Council funded theatres or the BBC itself.

The coalition government’s cuts agenda has affected BECTU’s membership substantially, whether we are talking about the World Service, local authority and Arts Council funded theatres or the BBC itself.

Our team looking after World Service members continue to press the case for staff and have been taking the fight to the Foreign Office. Last week’s Foreign Affairs Select Committee report laid bare the idiocy of the proposed cuts and the availability of an easy remedy. We now need the government to listen before one of the country’s best exports is dismantled further.

Theatre and the arts

In March the Arts Council announced its post-spending review cuts which we described as 'incomprehensible'. Wholesale cuts in funding to established regional venues such as the Derby Playhouse and Exeter’s Northcott and substantial increases for other venues. The full impact of Arts Council policy on BECTU’s membership is being assessed but we must prepare for a major tussle.

Lobby of Parliament

On 15 June we’ll be joining our sister unions in the FEU (Federation of Entertainment Unions) for a lobby of Parliament to challenge the proposed substantial withdrawal of public money for the arts and culture. Private money, even if it could be secured, won’t provide a future platform for the range of new and diverse work which makes UK arts the great success story it is.  We hope you’ll join us on 15 June. More details in the April/May issue of Stage Screen and Radio; check the website for updates or better still follow @bectu for news updates.

Last week members in West End theatres accepted an interim three per cent pay award pending the outcome of the detailed review of grading and terms and conditions. On 12 May I'll be leading for the union side as we open the last phase of talks; we'll be doing everything we can to validate the years of work by so many people committed to modernising working conditions in this sector.  

A 16 per cent reduction in BBC income during the Charter renewal period to 2017 will have a major impact on staff at the BBC and also on the World Service, S4C and BBC Monitoring which are set to be funded out of a frozen licence fee.

Cuts in staffing are an all too sorry feature of life at the BBC as management lurch from one reorganisation to another in an attempt to appease their masters in the BBC Trust and at Westminster. As freelance labour becomes even more critical to the BBC’s bid to maintain quality, one of my main aims over the next 12 months is to see BECTU make real progress in negotiations under the Freelance Recognition Agreement signed last year. For staff, annual pay talks opened last month; we'll have more to say on this when our officials meet with BBC executives again on 11 May.

Annual conference

Also in our sights right now are preparations for annual conference on 4 June in Eastbourne. We'll be assessing the union’s past year but more importantly we'll be planning for the future. If you are a branch rep do help us to save time by letting us know no later than 27 April, who will make up your delegations. We look forward to seeing as many new and familiar faces as possible. 

 For now, Happy Easter.

 

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